This is part of a weekly series here at TSS: Early Modern and Open Access regularly showcases peer reviewed articles (or other resources) of interest to early modernists that are freely available in open access formats.
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A great deal has been written about dreams in literature and drama, but very little about sleep. Cornelia Parker’s 1995 exhibition The Maybe raised questions about the figure of the sleeping woman in visual, verbal and dramatic art. Excluded from the consciousness of the undreaming subject, audiences turn instead to the impact of her physical presence, the point of view offered them, and the ethical dilemmas of that point of view, for which the evolution of the Sleeping Beauty folk tale suggests a critical and anthropological framework. Shakespeare shows an abiding interest in the dramatic potential of the sleeping woman that extends from his early poetry to his late plays and comprehends a concern with the ethical problems posed for readers and spectators. This paper looks at the sources for Shakespeare’s representations, tracing the development of sleep scenes through Lucrece, Othello and Cymbeline, and uses them to interrogate recent critical treatments of the concept of visual desire in Renaissance and Restoration drama.